Stories tagged On this day

Tell us about something that happened today in history, and make it relate to current science.

Astronaut Sally Ride: on the mid-deck of the space shuttle.
Astronaut Sally Ride: on the mid-deck of the space shuttle.Courtesy NASA
Sally K. Ride, the first American woman to go into space, died today of pancreatic cancer. Here's what NASA's People page said about the former astronaut:

"The nation has lost one of its finest leaders, teachers and explorers. Our thoughts and prayers are with Sally's family and the many she inspired. She will be missed, but her star will always shine brightly."

Story on MSNBC website

On this day in 1969, two American astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, became the first humans to touch down on and explore the surface the Moon. Relive the actual lunar module landing (juxtaposed with panorama imagery from LRO data) in the above video. Also, learn more about all the Apollo Program and missions leading up to and following Apollo 11's historic landing forty-three years ago.

It's taken nearly 50 years, but scientists at Europe's CERN have finally announced the detection of the Higgs boson. Earlier this week, rumors were leaking all over the place, but today the discovery has now been confirmed. Well, sort of. The new particle has Higgs-like properties, but further data analysis will be needed to determine if it actually behaves like the predicted Standard Model. Odds are it will.

In 1964, British theoretical physicist Peter Higgs and others, predicted a sub-atomic particle must exist that gives mass to all other particles. His name was tagged to the elusive particle, and ever since then physicists have sought it out, using particle accelerators at both Fermilab near Chicago, and at CERN, where today plenty of celebrating is taking place. Congratulations are in order for the thousands of scientists involved in the quest!

CERN press release
Fermilab announcement

Mount St. Helens erupting
Mount St. Helens eruptingCourtesy USGS
Preceded by a magnitude 5.1 earthquake, Washington state's Mount St. Helens explodes with a major eruption in 1980 that flattens the surrounding forest, blankets the immediate area with mud and avalanche debris, and unleashes more than 500 million tons of ash into the air that reaches as far as Oklahoma (although traces of the ash encircle the globe). Fifty-seven people lose their lives from the eruption.

USGS page

Born on this day in 1825, Thomas Henry Huxley: aka Darwin's Bulldog
Thomas Henry Huxley: aka Darwin's BulldogCourtesy Public domain via Wikipedia
Thomas Huxley was known as Darwin's Bulldog due to his outspoken advocacy of the naturalist's Theory of Evolution.

"Every great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute rejection of authority.“

- T. H. Huxley

Thomas Huxley bio

The space shuttle Discovery flew over Washington DC on the back of NASA's Shuttle Carrier Aircraft before making its final landing at Dulles Airport. The shuttle will be housed at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA. During it's operational lifetime, Discovery flew 39 missions into space, more than any other vehicle in the fleet. Photos of Discovery, including some taken by spectators during the DC flyby can be viewed on NASA's Space Shuttle Discovery page. Kind of cool. RIP Discovery.

There were northerly winds over North Atlantic in the months prior to the RMS Titanic leaving port. These winds likely played a role in pushing icebergs farther south than normal and into the Titanic’s path.

When the Titanic left port in Queenstown, Ireland on Thursday April 11, 1912, it sailed under brisk winds from the north-northwest at 15-20 knots and a temperature of about 50 degrees. Two days earlier, well to the west in Boston, MA, a few thousand fans shivered in the cold and snow flurries as the Red Sox beat Harvard University 2-0 in the first game ever played at Fenway Park. On April 12 the winds were from the west-southwest at about 15 knots and the noon temperature was about 60 degrees. As the ship continued westward, the skies got cloudier as a weak cold front approached. The noon time temperatures on Saturday April 12 were still around 60 degrees, but another cold front (associated with the previous Fenway snow flurries) was to the west and north of the ship. As the Titanic passed through the second cold front on Sunday April 14, the winds switched to northwest at 20 knots. The noon temperature was around 50 degrees but by 7:30 pm the temperature was 39 degrees. On Sunday, nighttime temperatures dropped below freezing and the skies cleared and the winds calmed. A large Arctic air mass was now over the area, along with a clear, star lite night, subfreezing temperatures and calm winds that resulted in a sea “like glass”. Icebergs where known to be in the region, but the calm winds made spotting them difficult. To spot icebergs during the night, lookouts searched for wind driven wave breaking around their bases. The ship struck an iceberg at 11:40 p.m. on Sunday, April 14.

On Monday morning, after the sinking, one survivor reported a breeze that came up around dawn to add to the morning chill. Photographs of the rescue that morning show small waves on the ocean surface, confirming that report.

STS-1 Launch

by Joe on Apr. 13th, 2012

STS-1: In this image, the two solid rocket boosters are aglow after being jettisoned.
STS-1: In this image, the two solid rocket boosters are aglow after being jettisoned.Courtesy NASA
April 12, 1981 was the date of the first space shuttle launch. I remember it.

From NASA:

On April 12, 1981, astronauts John Young and Bob Crippen launched into space on space shuttle Columbia on the STS-1 mission--NASA's first mission aboard a reusable spacecraft. STS-1 was NASA's first manned mission since the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975.

Today is Pi Day!

by mdr on Mar. 14th, 2012

The symbol for pi (3.14...): and a blueberry pi at that.
The symbol for pi (3.14...): and a blueberry pi at that.Courtesy Mark Ryan
It's once again March 14 (3/14), and that means it's once again Pi Day! That's the day set aside to recognize "the ratio of any Euclidean circle's circumference to its diameter", or in mathematical terms, it's an irrational number that begins with:

3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375105820974944592307816406286208998628034825342117067982148086513282306647093844609550582231725359408128481117450284102701938521105559644622948954930381964428810975665933446128475648233786783165271201909145648566923460348610454326648213393607260249141273724587006606315588174881520920962829254091715364367892590360011330530548820466521384146951941511609... and on and on and on, yadda, yadda, yadda. (It wasn't intentional but I like how the number has gone off the page toward infinity.)

Pi Day was created by a physicist named Larry Shaw back in 1988. The symbol for pi is that thing pictured above. (Yes, it's a blueberry pi - my favorite).

Official? Pi Day webpage
More pi info
The Pi Song (Thanks Pam Hamann!)